Carmel Trip

May 20, 2008

Golden State; Waves at sunset north of Santa Cruz; May 2008

Mas and I drove down to Carmel for a night to visit our friends Phil and Debby. On our first day, they took us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Debby used to be a docent there so she was our personal tour guide.

Many aquariums have a variety of fish tanks that show marine life from all over the world. The Monterey Bay Aquarium concentrates on the life local to the Bay. It is flushed daily with new water which brings with it the plankton from the bay. The exhibits are filled with small animals, such as anemones, that have seeded themselves from the outside.

The displays and tanks are all carefully constructed by someone with a restrained, artistic eye. The jellyfish exhibit stands out in my memory – it is hauntingly beautiful.

The next day we visited a couple of art galleries in Carmel, including the Winfield Gallery. The owner, Chris Winfield, is the older brother of Robin Winfield – one of the gallery artists and my high-school classmate. It was nice to see Robin and Chris, and the gallery was a treat. He represents a large group of artists, including their father, Rodney Winfield, and all three of Chris’ siblings (Robin, David, and Nancy). It also turned out that Debby and Chris had gone to the same high school in St. Louis and knew people in common!

After a lovely outdoor lunch at the Village Corner restaurant, we enjoyed the 17-mile drive along the beautiful Monterey Bay shore. A highlight of our tour was the view of the Walker Residence, designed in the 1940’s by Frank Lloyd Wright. Mrs. Walker asked him to design a small house (she lived alone) that would fit into the landscape and not block anyone else’s views. The house seems like an extension of the land it sits on. After all the grandiose mansions of Pebble Beach, this little house is beautiful in its modesty.

After saying goodbye to our friends, we drove home on Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean, and stopped to watch the sun go down. We sat on the cliff, all alone in the quiet, and enjoyed the brilliant, golden sunset.

(click here for more pictures)

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The Struggle

May 2, 2008

Forest - 2007; W 17 1/2

Forest – 2007; W 17 1/2″ x D 8 1/2″ x H 9″; Klamath river stone and poplar

Mas made this suiseki last autumn. At the time he had such a feeling of accomplishment, finishing such a difficult daiza. He brought it into the dining room and we enjoyed looking at it every day. But after a few days the excitement kind of disappeared. It just couldn’t stand up next to the fine traditional suiseki in the room.

Mas been struggling with this stone for a long time. It’s a beautiful piece of material from the Klamath River, but the feeling from the stone doesn’t transfer to the finished suiseki. The peak is small and indistinct relative to the vertical and horizontal expanse and there are many features spread out over the surface. It feels like a big wall, too busy and with no focal point.

A suiseki friend was visiting a while ago, and he suggested that Mas cut the stone and make a simple base. Of course this he had considered this possibility. It would solve the vertical wall problem, and would also help give the stone better proportions – a distinct peak and good kamae (good seat or posture). But cutting is a last resort, and Mas always wants to explore all the other possibilities. He feels that it is an incredible stone, even though it does not follow the traditional suiseki style. So what to do? He really wants to “take care” of the stone – and show the deep meaning of stone appreciation.

The other night Mas showed me a picture of his first attempt to finish this stone from several years ago.

Wave (after Hokusai) - 2000; W 24

Wave – 2000; W 24″ x D 12″ x H 11″; Stone, Douglas Fir with paint

This was one of his very early experiments with using a board for his “suiseki art”. The stone evokes the image of a great wave, and that reminded him of this print by Hokusai, so he carved and painted Great Wave off Kanagawathe board in a deliberate reference to the print. The result was not satisfying to him. The board is too busy, competing with the stone, and the carving does not harmonize with the form of the stone.

Nevertheless, I was kind of excited by the picture. The stone, presented in this way, seems really powerful to me. It gives me the image of a strong and ancient rock slowly being eroded away by the power of the sea. Mas now feels encouraged to try again, and I look forward to someday being able to finish this story.  He says that if he simply concentrates how to create a “Wave”, without any preconceived concepts, then all the rest will follow.

As Hemingway once put it:

“No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in,” says Hemingway. “That kind of symbol sticks out like raisins in raisin bread. Raisin bread is all right, but plain bread is better.” He opens two bottles of beer and continues: “I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things. The hardest thing is to make something really true and sometimes truer than true.”

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